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Field of Dreams

In Iowa, teammates celebrate friendship, family

“There,” my father said, pointing out the window of our rental car.

I had to squint to make out what he was talking about. I’d seen so many cornfields on the three-hour drive from Chicago to Dyersville, Iowa, that the landscapes all blended together.

But there it was, in a sea of golden cornstalks: Six tall, wood light-posts marking the shape of a baseball field. The site of the award-winning 1989 film [Field of Dreams.]

People make the pilgrimage to the [Field of Dreams] movie site for many reasons. Some come for the love of the game and others for love of the movie.

For me, baseball was just the backdrop to this adventure.

My teammates were already at the field when we pulled into the parking lot. Most of them were in the outfield, disappearing into the corn like the movie’s mystical ghosts of baseball past.

The Addison Mountain Stars are a vintage base ball team that plays by 1860s rules. Back then, the game was spelled as two words. Pitching was underhand, fielders didn’t wear gloves, and the game wasn’t the batter-vs.-pitcher duel we see at ballparks today.

In vintage base ball, there are no homerun fences and no stealing bases. Fielders get one bounce to make an out.

I joined the Addison Mountain Stars about two years ago, when my Cal U colleagues Chris Nicholls and John Moore ’05, of University Technology Services, invited me to play. The team is run by Cal U alumni Adam Johnson ’03 and his wife, Jeanette (Augustine) Johnson ’06, whose dad started the vintage team 35 years ago.

Phil Maise ’06 also plays for the Stars, and Caroline Moore ’05 is our unofficial team photographer.

Every year, we travel around western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan to take part in tournaments. Next summer, we’ll play our “home” games at Roadman Park, on Cal U’s upper campus.

Although Iowa is a bit outside our territory, we’d jumped at the invitation to play in a friendly, four-team weekend event against vintage teams from Michigan and Indiana. I’d asked my dad to come along.

As the last out was called and the players began trotting off the field, I paused and looked at the baseline in front of me. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to cross, signifying the end of our time in Iowa.

I didn’t get the opportunity to wink at the pitcher like young Moonlight Graham did in the movie, or call for a low ball like Shoeless Joe Jackson.

It took me a few moments to understand why I was there – and who I had with me.

“Hey, Dad,” I said. “Do you want to have a catch?”

It was a line straight out of the movie, but there was none more appropriate.

You see, [Field of Dreams] isn’t really about baseball. It’s a story about a father and son who are torn apart and then given the chance to play catch one last time.

I looked around and saw that my Cal U teammates were all having similar moments. I watched a father running around the bases with his toddler son. I saw families laughing, and a man getting the chance to play one last game with his children before “retiring” from the sport.

My father and I didn’t say a word as we tossed the ball back and forth. The silence was an unspoken thank-you for the years of coaching Little League, attending games and buying equipment. For providing me with a wonderful friendship as we both grow older, and for adopting me into his family when I was born.

None of the moments I experienced in Iowa would have been possible without the Cal U alumni and staff who offered their friendship and welcomed me to their team.

It is truly the people who make our University special.

– By Jeff Bender, digital communications director at Cal U

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